Library of Birmingham at Be2Camp Brum 2010

Design for Library of Birmingham by Mecanoo architects

Be2camp Brum 2010 was loosely themed around libraries. A new building for Birmingham Central Library (where Be2camp Brum 2010 was held) is currently under construction and due to open in 2013 and the first three presentations at Be2camp Brum were concerned with how digital technologies are being integrated into the planning and construction process as well as into the library services and building itself.

Brian Gambles speaking at Be2camp Brum 2010 via Meshed Media

Brian Gambles, head of BCC Library Services, outlined the broad overview that is being taken to the use of digital technologies, emphasising that they are designing for maximum flexibility and adaptability and aiming not to be platform-specific as they assume that digital infrastructures and technologies will change over the lifetime of the building. Brian emphasised that the aim is to redefine and reimagine the relationship between library services, the library building and library users through digital technologies.

Tom Epps speaking at Be2camp Brum 2010 via Meshed Media

Tom Epps then spoke about one of the ways this is taking place. Alongside the construction of the new building,  a virtual model of the new Library of Birmingham building is being built in Second Life. This model is to scale and Tom spoke about how this is providing a better sense of the relationships between different elements of the building than it’s possible to get from architects plans or non-interactive 3-D model. Once the Second Life Library goes live it will also be used for public consultations to gather people’s opinions on the new design via polls and feedback points, and possibly to host events paralleling the physical Library building and services. (And it was so impressive that the whole presentation was done while we were being expertly navigated live around the Second Life model live!)

We then heard a little about the role of mobile technologies in re-imagining library services (I’m afraid I didn’t get the speaker’s name) and a description of how library services and activities will be augmented by mobile personal devices and applications.

All in all it was great to hear that the Library are taking such an imaginative approach to the integration of digital technologies and working on platform neutrality and personalised services that open up great library resources – such as their archive of photographs – to city residents and library visitors. I really hope that this emphasis on the experience people have in the library will continue to inform all of their decisions. And I was only slightly disturbed that their Second Life model which professes to show how the library will be doesn’t actually have any people in it yet…

inspiration sharing

For the love of a book shelf

Photographs of Macleods secondhand bookstore, Vancouver, Canada and a bookshelf, from

As if to emphasise James Bridle‘s point that books-as-objects act as souvenirs of the reading time, a few days ago I came across the blog bookshelf porn. The premise of the blog is simple – it shows photographs of bookshelves, contributed by readers, and adds a new picture of two every day. But I never would have imagined the variety of book shelves that exist, or how beautiful they look when they are collected together in this way.

This isn’t all about aesthetics – this is a blog with a message. While there’s very little text on the site occasionally, in between the photographs, there is a quote such as this one from The New Yorker’s The Book Bench writing about Bookshelf porn:

“Featuring a book on your bookshelf is akin to displaying a trophy. You’ve accomplished something in reading a book; it feels like a victory. The opportunity to display your literary conquests in unique or unexpected ways is something I will greatly miss with e-readers.”

This message – that bookshelves have a beauty and purpose that is not found in e-readers – is carried across the site. And looking at the photos I couldn’t really argue with that, however, I am excited to see how e-readers might begin to address that challenge…


Carnet du Bibliexplorateur

We received an email yesterday from a user based in Epinay sur Seine, France describing how he’s used bookleteer with his students:

My name is J.-Thomas Maillioux, and I’ve been working as the librarian for the collège Evariste Galois middle school since 2005. I’ve recently started to use the bookleteers to create “adventure books” for our first-year pupils’ library orientation program in a format both convenient and original. The flexibility of the Bookleteer publishing platform has also allowed me to quickly and easily implement the modifications suggested by my own observations, or advice from the students and teachers involved in the orientation program.

Download A4US Letter PDF 486Kb

I’ve also been able to sit down with small group of students to discuss what they would do with the Bookleteers : they suggested uses both for school (custom booklets for note taking on school trips, tutorials or HOWTOs for specific activities in sciences and technology classes, reminders while giving presentations in front of a class) and home (grocery shopping, tasks listing, books and stories writing or games) that make me think that, with the correct amount of support from their teachers in acquiring and supporting the necessary skills, they should be able to make the Bookleteers and the publishing platform their own relatively quickly : a good way to reconcile them not only with the printed word, but also with their printed word – that what they write, too, can be and deserves being made into a book with very little hassle.

We’d love to hear more testimonials of how bookleteer, the eBooks and StoryCubes are being used – please send your feedback to us at bookleteer at